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Choosing just six of Martin Scorsese's films to highlight is like . . . well, choosing just six of Scorsese's thirty-plus films to highlight. But you can't make a list like this, or really any list of great American films, without mentioning Taxi Driver. Mean Streets was his first film that made people take notice of him as a director; Taxi Driver was the first one that made people say, Dang.
And then after you take Taxi Driver out of the DVD player, take a deep breath and pop in Raging Bull. DeNiro's next collaboration with Scorsese is a biopic of the boxer Jake LaMotta. Scorsese explores how the same drives that propel LaMotta in the ring wreak havoc on his life outside of it. Definitely a must-see.
For true film geeks, this black and white mystery is Scorsese's first feature film. Originally entitled I Call First, the movie features Italian-Americans, Catholic guilt, inner torment - you know, typical Scorsese stuff. And, fun fact - Scorsese cast his mother Catherine in a cameo appearance.
I'm funny how? I mean, funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? If you had to make a list of the best gangster movies of all time, Scorsese's Goodfellas would have to be on it. Scorsese's mother makes another cameo, as the mother of Joe Pesci's character Tommy, and his father plays a prisoner. And the f-bomb is dropped nearly 300 times. Really. Someone counted.
Scorsese wanted to make this picture as early as 1978, but a few decades of filmmaking got in the way. Though actors from John Belushi to Mel Gibson were considered for the lead roles at various times, Scorsese eventually cast Daniel Day-Lewis as The Butcher and Leonardo DiCaprio as Amsterdam Vallone, the leaders of two rival gangs in 19th century New York. The film is a graphic, unsparing depiction of the violence and tensions in New York City's underworld. Fun fact: DiCaprio accidentally broke Day Lewis's nose during a fight scene. Daniel Day Lewis kept fighting through the scene.
This is the movie that finally won Scorsese his Academy Award. It features an unbelievable cast - Jack Nicholson as an absolute psycho Irish gangster, Leonardo DiCaprio as a tormented undercover cop, Matt Damon as the crooked cop, and Alec Baldwin in a hilarious small part as a police captain. The movie is about crime, violence, deception, screwed-up father issues - everything you need in a good Scorsese picture.